Incapacity tests reject 37% of claimants

Sign a0bove disabled parking bay 1.5 million people will be reassessed by spring 2014

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More than a third of incapacity benefit claimants being reassessed for the new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) have been deemed fit to work.

Of the first 141,100 claimants reviewed since last April, 37% would no longer be paid the benefit, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said.

Meanwhile 29% will continue being paid the ESA and will not be expected to work.

And 34% will receive the new benefit but go on a back-to-work programme.

The controversial reviews started across the UK last April and will eventually cover 1.5 million incapacity benefit claimants by early 2014.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said the official figures justified the government's decision in 2010 to press ahead with the wholesale review of incapacity benefit claimants.

These involve the claimants going through the work capability assessments (WCA) that are applied to new applicants.

"To have such a high percentage who are fit for work just emphasises what a complete waste of human lives the current system has been," the minister said.

"We know that for many it will be a long haul back to work but it's much better to help them on the journey than to leave them on benefits for the rest of their lives."

Start Quote

There are still deep flaws with the assessment”

End Quote Richard Hawkes Scope

However the TUC's general secretary, Brendan Barber, said the test was designed purely to kick people off benefits, "whatever the cost".

"It's hardly surprising that a test specifically designed to make fewer people qualify for disability benefits is passing more people as 'fit to work'," he said.

"These tests have deemed terminally ill patients and people with severe disabilities as 'fit to work', are costing taxpayers a small fortune in successful legal appeals and serve no clear benefit to the very people they are supposed to help."


ESA became the new benefit on 31 March 2011 for all new claimants who are unable to work due to incapacity or illness.

Anyone barred from claiming ESA would still be able to claim Jobseeker's Allowance if they remained unemployed, said a spokeswoman for the DWP.

Richard Hawkes, of the disability charity Scope, said the latest statistics told only a partial story.

"There have been continuing problems with the work capability assessment which has used a tick box-style assessment to assess people's fitness for work," he said.

"Up to 40% of appeals against a WCA decision have been found in favour of the claimant, suggesting there are still deep flaws with the assessment."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    The primary purpose of the current assessment is to get people off benefits, protecting those who are genuine is only an after-thought for the gov. My disabled mother was sent back to work in error and it caused a lot of stress and a great deal of financial hardship whilst her appeal went through. My dad is mentally ill and has his assessment soon, the anxiety is really sending him off the rails.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    many of the people who are booted off ESA may be technically 'fit to work' but due to their illnesses and disabilities they are in effect unemployable. The schemes that were in place to provide these people with work (eg Remploy) have been discontinued as 'uneconomic' by this and past governments. Without ESA what are they to do? Starve? Because that is the real prospect facing some people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Having known people who 'acted' ill for years (and later started to believe it) to claim benefits - this figure does not surprise me. In fact I expected it to be higher. Lets stop blaming the current or previous govt & accept the fact it is being abused on many many levels & needs some serious checks & balances.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    What the statistics do not give are the percentage of claimants that went on to appeal against a negative decision, and the percentage of such appeals that were successful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    At last, something is being done about the scrounging few who abuse the system and cost the tax payers a fortune. So long as it doesn't affect the geninue persons; this sort of thing needs pushing out further - unemployment, housing and family benifits and allowances next please.


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